The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The fullness of things

In the last “The Pause” Krista Tippett shared an excerpt of her conversation with the poet and essayist Jane Hirshfield, describing “our human task.” According to Hirshfield, it is “to acknowledge ‘the fullness of things.’ The darkness that cohabits with light, even at the best of times; the beauty that persists even as this world absorbs a magnitude of suffering.”

As time evolved, humans tend to make things more complicated than needed. This is also true for the quest to define one’s purpose as an individual or as a group. Purpose seems to have to be important, extraordinary, special, or some other superlative. It often means that something essential remains missing. It’s as if the chosen purpose wouldn’t feel whole.

The fullness of things is a gentle reminder of the simplicity things can have. Instead of a quest to become “perfect” at being happy, successful, or helpful, there is a simple task that asks us to acknowledge that there is no state that doesn’t feel disrupted at the same time. There is always some reminder that the state, as experienced, might disappear. Often leading to an attachment to the moment that seemed “full” on its own. A short instant appearing just before being reminded of the elusiveness of our state.

The fullness of things doesn’t say that one can be full of joy for example and only experience that joy. It says that the fullness of joy results from the presence of what feels to us like the darker side of joy.

That simple rarely means easy may help to see how the search for purpose, as it happens nowadays, builds on the hope to find something easier to do than to manage “the fullness of things.”

It’s missing the point that acknowledging doesn’t require management.


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